In advance of the Budget on Wednesday, Councillor Jackie Meldrum, Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care, has written to the Chancellor Philip Hammond MP to demand urgent action on the social care crisis.
I am writing to you, in advance of the coming Budget, on behalf of the vulnerable residents of Lambeth to plead with you to take a fresh look at the funding arrangements for adult social care in our borough and across the UK.
The crisis in the adult social care & health sector has become impossible for this government to ignore. Councillors from across the country and Labour MPs in Parliament have repeatedly called on the government to properly fund social care and the NHS, to no avail. However, in recent months we have seen a consensus from councillors of all parties, who have to deal with the realities of this government’s policy on their local services.
The Conservative Councillors who lead the Local Government Association (LGA) have called on central government to act on the rising cost of social care. To quote these councillors: "Elderly and vulnerable people (are) continuing to face an ever uncertain future where they might no longer receive the dignified care and support they deserve, such as help getting dressed or getting out and about. This is not only worse for our parents and grandparents but will also heap further pressure on the NHS. There cannot be a sustainable NHS without a sustainable adult social care system.”
I totally agree with them. Your government claims it is putting more money into the health sector but demand and costs are growing at a rate much faster than the limited growth in funding. Health & social care remain one of the most labour intensive services left in the UK and care workers are amongst our lowest paid workers. They deserve every penny from the rise of the minimum wage and our local London Living wage. Councils are struggling to find the funding to make up the gap in social care funding as well as fulfilling our obligations to provide a wide range of other services.
In Lambeth adult social care spend makes up over 25% of our council’s net budget. As a borough with high levels of deprivation and a very diverse population, the needs of many of our vulnerable residents are complex and long term. We are working very closely with our local NHS partners on integrating services for mental health and older people. This has had considerable success in improving outcomes for people and achieving cash releasing reductions in expenditure for both sectors. In addition, for people aged under-65 with physical and learning disabilities we are focusing on closer working with housing and care providers.
We have worked extremely hard to make significant savings in our Council budget, to ensure our services are as efficient as possible and we have done our very best to protect our social care budget over the past seven years. Yet we cannot continue to provide the levels of services our residents need with continued deep cuts to council funding.
Like almost all councils with social care responsibilities, Lambeth will be using the government’s precept in our 2017/18 budget to help address the growing demand for care in our borough. We are doing the best we can for the thousands of our most vulnerable citizens needing our care – but without more government funding the risks will continue to rise. The additional precept for social care offered to councils by the government late last year is only a sticking plaster on the national funding social care gap of at least £2.6 billion, and although we know there are increases in funding planned for 2018/19, that will be too late. By then more care providers will have stopped delivering services, more care homes will have closed and more social workers will be made redundant.
The costs of ensuring our most vulnerable residents get the care and dignity that they deserve should not be shifted onto local taxpayers and families because the government is failing to fund them properly. This is a national problem and requires a national solution, especially if we are to better support our National Health Service. In your budget on March 8th I urge you to address the growing gaps in costs and demand for care by residents, both over and under the age of 65.
Councillor Jackie Meldrum
Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care, London Borough of Lambeth